Cape Girardeau Co. woman accused of financially exploiting elderly

Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 5:44 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - A woman in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri is accused of financially exploiting the elderly.

Rhonda K. Wessel was arraigned in court on Monday, February 26.

According to court documents, authorities took a complaint in November 2016 of an elderly woman being taken advantage of financially.

The woman said her 83-year-old mother was a victim and stated that she and her siblings met with their mother to discuss plans of putting her in an assisted living facility due to what they believe was their mother's early onset of dementia.

According to court documents, the woman explained it was during this meeting that they found out their mother had a negative checking account balance.

She told authorities that after checking the check register, it was determined that Wessel allegedly took advantage of their mother financially.

The woman described Wessel as being a close friend of her mother and stepfather and stated she was aware that Wessel would help her mother with going to doctor's appointments.

According to court documents, from March 17, 2016 to November 8, 2016, Wessel received a little more than $36,000 from her mother. The woman told authorities her mother would sign a check and give it to Wessel not knowing what dollar amount would be put on the check by Wessel.

Authorities said the dollar amount and transaction description would then later be added into the checkbook register by Wessel.

Wessel is accused of writing herself three checks totaling $11,200 between March 17 and April 5 for labor/service fees. The final check she allegedly wrote to herself was on Nov. 8, 2016 for $1,750, which resulted in the woman's mother having a negative checking balance two days later.

According to court documents, Wessel also had a credit card in the name of the woman's stepfather and allegedly charged $16,602 to it. She said her mother was not aware Wessel had the card, nor that Wessel had used it for her own personal needs.

Court documents state some card transactions included Wessel allegedly paying her utility bill, cellular phone and other shopping expenditures.

The woman told authorities she called Wessel on Nov. 14, 2016 and talked to her for about 45 minutes. She claimed Wessel acknowledged that she had used the card for unauthorized purchases without consent.

During one point in the conversation, Wessel allegedly said, "It's like a criminal, you stick it in a machine, use it and then sign his name."

According to court documents, Wessel told the woman she had every intention of making these unauthorized transactions right, if given the chance. She allegedly expressed remorse and said she was in debt.

On Jan. 19, authorities talked to Wessel at the sheriff's office in regards to the allegations.

Wessel allegedly said she provided a service to the elderly woman by helping her with paying bills, taking her to the doctor and helping her with court appointments concerning her estate.

According to authorities, Wessel had a document signed by the elderly woman and herself and witnessed by someone else. The document was dated Nov. 30, 2015 and pertained to an outstanding loan balance of $8,500 given to Wessel.

The document allegedly started out by stating that Wessel was forgiven on paying back the loan and was under no obligation to pay back any of it. It continued to state that in return for the loan being forgiven, Wessel would provide errands such as transportation and light housework. It concluded by stipulating that legal action could not be sought against Wessel if the loan was not paid back.

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